What I did on their summer vacation

Our old friends Gary and Evelyn just had the most wonderful vacation of their lives. For three weeks they were waited on, fussed over, pampered and coddled. Every meal was a production, every day there was an excursion to some new scenic spot. They saw every lake, river, ocean, canal, waterfall, canyon, mountain, valley, mansion, garden vista and view possible. They’ve never had so much fun. But all good things must come to an end. The vacation is over, they have finally left our house and gone back home.

Sue and I thought they would never leave. Years ago, when we were all much younger, they were bright young things – clever, witty, lots of fun to be with. Now Gary is so hard of hearing, you have to say everything six times, louder each time until he finally misunderstands you. Evelyn is used to this, we are not. They are retired, we are not. We get up at seven. They get up at nine. We go to bed at 11, they go to bed at one. We eat meat, she does not. We drink beer, they like wine. We like regular coffee, they drink Sanka. We like to read, they like to talk. We are calm, they are tense.



The first few days we didn’t notice how little we had in common. We caught up. Their daughter is a radiologist now, very happily divorced and looking for a boyfriend. They heard all about Sue’s new knees. Gary has to watch his blood sugar and I have to pay attention to my cholesterol.

We didn’t notice Evelyn was cutting his food for him and buttering his bread until about the third day. We didn’t notice that her perfume was particularly clinging until the fourth day. We found out we don’t like the same kind of music any more. He can’t hear anything, she’s into square dance calling. Our feeling is a little square dance music goes a long way. Evelyn likes to listen to it for hours on end – in our car – while Sue drives. Evelyn doesn’t drive.

What had we been thinking? Sure, we hadn’t seen them in years and they live on the other side of the world, but three weeks? We thought they would use our house as kind of a base where they would go off and do things by themselves most of the time. They thought we were running a summer camp and Sue and I were the entertainment directors.

We have plenty of self-directed activities here – biking, hiking, swimming, golfing – none of it seemed to interest Gary and Evelyn. They took a 10-minute walk on day two and never went again. They sat at the pond for a half an hour on day three, but they couldn’t deal with bugs. Evelyn and Gary had never been in this part of the country before and there were lots of things they wanted to see. It’s funny that the bugs bothered her, but walking around in 106 degree weather seemed to energize her. Gary’s bladder was starting to go, too. A car trip that should take two hours would take four. With the square dance calling it seemed like 10.

After the first week, instead of trying to get off early from work to spend more time with Gary and Evelyn, Sue started spending more and more time at work each day. Special projects started to crop up – emergency filing, last-minute water fountain maintenance, unexpected fire extinguisher checks. Me, I work at home.

“Does it bother you if I stand over your shoulder and watch you type?”

“No.”

“Whoops, you misspelled a word there.”

“Thanks.”

“What?”

“THANKS!”

“No, I think it’s spelled with and ‘e’ not an ‘a.’”

Gary’s hearing aid starts to squeal. Maybe I’ll just finish this when they’re asleep.

We took them to the airport yesterday and hugged them when we said “Goodbye,” promising we’d visit them soon.

As soon as hell freezes over.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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